Text by Tanja Andersen
Photos by BSBCC & Tanja Andersen
Here you can read what takes place during a work day at a nice and quiet day at the bear house. The days can feel a bit monotonous sometimes, but something can quickly happen and change that around on a daily basis. What can make work monotonous are the cleaning duties for various assignments. Two important things you have to remember is that you work with wild animals and that cleaning is important as it minimizes chances for sickness and illness; so, no, the days really are not the same at all.
The work day for a bear keeper / volunteer at BSBCC
Work is from 8:30AM to 5PM. The work order is divided into two groups. The first group, comprised of one to two persons, takes care of the food. The second group, two to four persons, takes care of the cleaning. The work order is determined mainly on among the regular staff is at work and who many volunteer workers there are as well.
A plan is usually set and expected to be followed through on, but one can know the right time for the different assignments that occur daily, as they can happen before or after the scheduled time. One has to observe from day to day at what times the different things take place to truly see what a workday here can contain.
· The bears are fed 4 times, every day.
Two weeks with fruit, two weeks with vegetables; that is the routine. If the bears get fruit from the start of the day every week, they will not touch the vegetables, because the bears prefer fruit over vegetables.
As a bear keeper, one must respect the cleaning process, as a large part of the job consists of cleaning. Cleaning is extremely important, because unwanted bacteria spread quickly. After the fruits have been cut, everything is made clean. The surfaces, tiles, the floor, everything you have used is cleaned. If one is sick one day, one is to remain home as one can spread bacteria onto the bears and that is not a smart thing as a health situation can escalate to the point of calling in the veterinarian. The enclosures, where the bears sleep during the night, are cleaned an extra time, every other day. There are days when one cleans a few enclosures and really clean those few ones, but there is not a whole lot of time, as we have to have everyone out of the enclosures before we start the feeding between 11AM and 1130 AM with fruit or vegetables. There are a number rules one must adhere to when operating within the enclosures; one of them being the important rule of looking around for any irregularities, in such things as the bears’ excrement, as it reveals a deal about the well-being of the animals.
Week to week can be very different, as it always depends on what there is time for and what is available. The bears usually get their regiments or enrichments when have gotten their fruits/vegetables around 3PM. On some days, they can get them at different times, but that depends entirely on what is happening on those particular days. One tries to as much as possible to make it different every time, because if the bears get the same things too often, they get used to it, know what to expect and in the end grow tired and bored; so one is only to give the bears the same regiment once or twice a week, if there are no other possibilities present.
There are days when we go into the jungle in order to find termite dens and trees, as they give off enriching nourishment
is not something one uses in a zoo, because one uses so little time as possible in front of the bears, as they are to be set free to where they belong in the future. One important thing to keep in mind is that they are wild animals and there is a reason why they are here. The only training/workout they do is in their training enclosure where the bears learn what electrical fencing is and learn it on their own, nonetheless. They need to learn this before they come out to a pen, because in the future, when they are released into the jungle, electrical fences are to be found everywhere as they have been set up to prevent animal intrusion on some of palm oil plantations for example.
The difference between a bear keeper and a volunteer
The volunteers are the bear keepers’ right hand and help them whenever help is needed. So, everything that pertains to bears is the bear keepers’ jobs as well as the workouts in the training pen. Volunteers are not allowed to get close to the bears at any point.
Photos from the jungle
* Go and try it if you like bears. You will not regret it. *